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Apricots & Wolfsbane
by K.M. Pohlkamp
Available October 13, 2017
Lavinia Maud craves the moment the last wisps of life leave her victim’s bodies—to behold the effects of her own poison creations. Believing confession erases the sin of murder, her morbid desires are in unity with faith, though she could never justify her skill to the magistrate she loves.
At the start of the 16th century in Tudor England, Lavinia’s marks grow from tavern drunks to nobility, but rising prestige brings increased risk. When the magistrate suspects her ruse, he pressures the priest into breaking her confessional seal, pitting Lavinia’s instincts as an assassin against the tenets of love and faith. She balances revenge with her struggle to develop a tasteless poison and avoid the wrath of her ruthless patron.
With her ideals in conflict, Lavinia must decide which will satisfy her heart: love, faith, or murder—but the betrayals are just beginning.
The violent display of convulsions lasted longer than I anticipated.
With my boots propped on the table, I remember watching beads of wax roll down the candle, marking time between my victim’s spasms. The brothel room was sparse, and the bed in the corner remained undisturbed. I had assumed the role of temptress that evening, but delivered a different climax.
I savored the fear on my victim’s face as much as my own unlaced mead. The sweetness of both danced on my palate. His repulsive gagging, however, I endured with patience.
My target focused upon me. His hand shook, reaching out in a misplaced plea for aid. Instead, I raised my goblet in a final toast while he turned purple. He glanced towards his spilled glass, and then studied my face with new understanding. With his last remnants of life, he pieced together what I had done. Those little moments made the act so delicious. And as his body collapsed upon the floor, I added one more success to my mental tally.
Murder just never got old.
The scratching of my chair sliding across the uneven floor broke the sudden, serene silence of the room. Driven by curiosity, my boots echoed with each step towards my victim.
The man’s eyes contained a lingering remnant of vibrancy despite the departure of the soul they once served. White froth percolated from his open mouth, overflowing the orifice to trail down his neck. It was not an honorable death, but my client had paid for certainty, not dignity.
Curious, I examined the large ruby on the victim’s pointer finger which matched the client’s description — an ornate setting with a coat of arms on one side of the gem and a mare’s head on the opposite. The worked piece of silver did not seem important enough to procure my service, but as a professional, I had not asked for justification, only payment. Material significance so often motivated patrons to fill my coffers. I recognized the inherent sin, but I never judged a client’s reason. I was not qualified to cast the first stone.
I did admire my victim. After all, he was a fellow criminal. I believed his talents as a thief must have been remarkable to pilfer the ring unnoticed from the finger of its owner. I often boasted of my own sleight of hand, but admittedly, I could not accomplish such a feat. Though in my defense, assassin clearly trumped thief.
After donning the black leather gloves concealed within the lacings of my bodice, I returned to business. I pushed the tipped chair out of the way and pulled on the ring, but my motion abruptly halted.
Caught at the knuckle, the gem did not budge.
I stared at his limp hand, dumbfounded, before a flame of focus burst through my body. How I craved and savored that rush. That high, and the feeling of power, motivated my ghastly craft all those years. Despite the stress, I never lost control of my emotions on the job. No matter the circumstance, I learned to remain calm and reason through any dilemma. That night was no different.
Grabbing the corpse’s wrist in one hand, I pulled on the metal band with all my strength. Still, the damn ring did not move, even with my heel braced against his chest. But through the sound of my grunting, the unexpected scratching of a nearby rat interrupted my efforts.
The rodent stood tall on his hind legs, observing the entertainment outside his hole in the floorboard. What else could I do except laugh in amusement? There was something poetic about the meager creature being the singular witness to the growing farce, while beyond the chamber door, an entire brothel remained unaware.
But their ignorance would not last for long.
By God’s nails, I was not going to degrade myself to play tug of war with a corpse, nor disgrace my spit to serve as lubrication. I retrieved the dagger from my boot and sawed through the bone of the blasted digit. In contrast, his purse strings cut with ease and the contained sum gave me confidence the proprietor would retain his promised discretion. Eager to depart, I cleansed the ring with the pure decanter of mead and left the contaminated gloves on the table.
I threw the finger to the rat.
K.M. Pohlkamp is a blessed wife to the love of her life, a proud mother of two, and a Mission Control flight controller. Originally from Wisconsin, she now resides in Houston, Texas.
I thought it might be neat for writers to see what kind of statistics I have as an Acquisitions Editor with an up-and-coming small press. Now, the statistics below are ONLY for submission sent to ME (this doesn’t include any submissions sent to the other Acquisitions Editor with FVP); and these are ONLY the statistics from December 2016, which was the first month I began working at the publishing house 🙂
In short, these are NOT the 2016 statistics for the entire publishing house, but still a cool thing to look at for some writers 🙂
SUBMISSION OUTCOMES: 23.1% were rejected on the query; 76.9% received requests for their full manuscript.
FULL MANUSCRIPT REQUESTS OUTCOMES: 20% withdrew their submission after signing contracts with other presses/agents; 40% received letters to ‘Revise & Resubmit’ their manuscript; 3% received rejections based on their full manuscripts; 10% signed contracts for publication.
76.9% of submitting authors were FEMALE.
23.1% of submitting authors were MALE.
61.5% of submissions were in the ADULT category; 23.1% were in the YOUNG ADULT category; 7.7% were in the NONFICTION category; and 7.7% were in the MIDDLE GRADE category.
15.4% were WOMEN’S FICTION; 7.7% were HORROR; 30.8% were ROMANCE or one of its sub-genres; 15.4% were THRILLER/SUSPENSE; 7.7% were MEMIORS; and 23.1% were a form of FANTASY.
In January 2018, I’ll plan to share my stats for 2017!
When Celina Leviet escapes the brutal home invasion that kills her husband, she’s left with a bullet in her gut and vengeance in her heart. An alluring demon, Mekaisto, offers an irresistible deal—in exchange for her soul, he’ll let her live long enough to get her revenge, but she must hunt and kill the murderers herself.
After sealing the contract, Celina digs into her husband’s past for clues about his murder, and what she uncovers makes her question everything she thought she knew about him.
His company never existed.
His family history was a lie.
And he was involved with The Lumen, a shadowy religious order whose members know too much about demons. As the life she thought she knew crumbles around her, Mekaisto’s charms become harder to resist. Forced to face a horrible truth, Celina struggles against her late husband’s betrayal and the dark seduction of the devil she knows.
Her breath came faster, and he could smell what she wanted before she even knew what it was. “Please, Kai—I’m yours. I want more. I want everything you can give me.”
The wave of lust heating his body could have burned a city to the ground. “Well, now,” he whispered in her ear as he stood, lifting her up with him, “I need to oblige such begging with a reward.”
I’m passionate about writing, reading, photo manipulation artwork, animals, anime/manga, video games, the fandom world of TV shows and movies, and stuff like that. I’m a proud Ravenclaw: I’ve always been sorted into this house, but the recent Pottermore sorting placed me in Gryffindor―I don’t care since the Sorting Hat couldn’t consider my choice, so I identify with Ravenclaw, and that’s where I’ll remain!
I have two main hobbies: writing and creating book covers. I’m also a gamer (Diablo, Zelda, Final Fantasy), enjoy listening to music (and always singing along to Disney), have a passion for Japanese culture, and adore reading. I love anime/manga, Japanese Dramas and consider myself a proud fan of many different TV shows including Buffy, Supernatural, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Merlin, Game of Thrones, Outlander, etc.
I wrote my first story when I was 12 years old (and we’ll never talk about that story), but started writing three years later. Since then, I always write, and this particular novel is my 19th story. It’s always been a dream to be a published author, and I can happily say I’ve reached that goal―I plan on continuing writing and publishing for the rest of my days.
Connect with Magali
(This story has two points of view )
“I am a demon, Celina, and above all else, demons love the hunt.” He smirked when her eyes widened.
“So, you see having sex with someone as a hunt?”
He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. “By your expression, I would say you still do not quite understand.”
“It’s your twisted logic.”
“I take my time, stalk my prey first, count the number of breaths she takes, imagine her screams…”
She arched an eyebrow. “That’s not at all creepy.”
Kai ignored her. “I am a creature of infinite time; the world creeps by, yet an intimate moment is so fleeting, it feels as though it is gone in less than a second.” He stopped, expecting an interruption again, but she stayed silent. “The pleasure is heightened by the danger, and in the throes of passion, I could lose my control and revert to the form least likely to be found pleasurable by my … partner?” He lost himself in the images in his mind, pinning down Celina’s body, taking her in a way she would never be able to recreate with a mere mortal man. “Hunting is simple. There is always one in the crowd that stands out—rarely is it the one searching for the one-night stand—no…” Kai locked his eyes with hers and goose bumps rose on her arms and legs. “No, the one unsure of what society wants her to be, the one who is desperate to be loved and appreciated. She is the one I seek.”
“So, social outcasts are your type?”
His eyes pierced her until he could see through her mind again, to all those curious little fantasies.
He smiled. “It’s about finesse, Celina. I listen to her, and as she speaks more confidently, I brush a hand over her skin”—his hand skimmed Celina’s neck as he brushed her back—“just enough so she shivers with anticipation of what my lips would feel like in the same spot.” He delved into Celina’s mind as his words worked against her disdain for him. “Then I caress her in a way she won’t notice, but her subconscious will let her lean into, let her mind take over and her body will beg for more.”
“She’d notice if…” She followed his gaze to his hand on her knee.
“Are you certain?” He’d worked his own body into a sensual frenzy as he’d drawn her into his web.
She stared at him, her cheeks flushing. “I—”
“Eventually, I suggest a night filled with pleasure.” He couldn’t contain his smile as he moved closer. “I keep touching her in small ways—maintaining physical contact at all times.” His hand inched up her side, until he tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. She sucked in a breath and he cupped her cheek.
He sat close to her and her scent calmed and excited him at the same time.
“Kai?” Her voice wavered.
“Sex is fleeting.” He took her chin and drew her close. “But intimacy is endless, a continuous moment of gentle touches”—his hand dropped back to her knee, and then made its way up her thigh until she let out a small gasp—“personal boundaries broken, and pleasures that go beyond sex.”
She sat as if frozen. “It’s still a one-night stand.”
“Mine last longer—and you reveal not only your body.” His hand moved to the middle of her chest. “When you are intimate with a demon, you reveal your soul. You make yourself vulnerable and open.”
“Considering you’ll have my soul sometime soon, I’m not giving you a free sample.” She drew away from him and stood. “I won’t be your prey tonight.”
Another surge of heat rushed through him, but he pushed it down with a long, deep breath. “You would set me loose on another human?”
She glared at him. “I wasn’t aware I had a choice about what you do outside of our deal. This would be on you, not me.”
“You think you control what I do within our deal?”
She rubbed her arms when he stood. “Not when you say it like that.”
“Celina…” He stopped in front of her and leaned into her personal space, drawing a lungful of a scent he would only ever associate with her.
He wrapped his arms around her, swallowing the shiver that shook her body. “What are you—?”
“Let’s play, Celina. I can assure you, you will not regret a night in my arms.”
I want you… Against all my instincts, I need you close.
Celina pushed him as hard as she could, and he withdrew as disappointment withered his gaze.
“Let me go, Mekaisto.”
You are trembling again, my dove… Is it because you are scared you will give in? How far can I push you until you bend?
“What if I say no?”
She glared at him, but Kai’s smile widened. He could feel, even smell, the pulsing between her legs begging him to take her.
“Isn’t it enough you’re getting my life and my soul? Now you need my body, too?” She pushed against him again, but he only held tighter, unable to let her go. “Why are you doing this? I just lost my husband, found out things that break my heart. I can’t sit and flirt with you.”
“I am offering you the chance to forget.”
“No!” Her hands clenched to fists as she shoved even harder against his chest. “No! You want to take everything I have left.”
He grabbed her wrists, pushed her back on the sofa, and pinned her down, his body hovering over her. “What is your life without your body?” He tilted his head and flicked his tongue across his lips. “You never asked what selling your life and soul meant specifically. Allow me to enlighten you now.” He moved until his face loomed only an inch or so from her face and her breath caught. He let go of her wrists, but his gaze pinned her to the spot.
“What?” Her voice ached just above a whisper.
“I own every inch of you … body and soul.”
Her face flushed and her lips trembled. “I never agreed to that!”
“You agreed to living. The details did not matter to you.”
“I was dying! You told me I didn’t have much time left, so it—”
When Tawny Ellis spots a fixer-upper on the Oregon coast, she and her husband jump at the chance to own a cottage near the beach. But as expensive repairs turn their dream home into a nightmare, their marriage unravels. And worse…the house is not quite vacant.
Something in the house’s dark past remains. Tawny’s daughter has a new imaginary friend, and she bears a striking resemblance to a little girl who squatted in the cottage with her drug-addicted mother. After breaking in and camping out, they vanished, and have been missing for years.
Now the house’s previous owner is enraged with Tawny. As he stalks her family, Tawny suspects she knows what happened to the last people who slept in the house. Her family might be next.
Release Date: May 12, 2017
Publisher: Filles Vertes Publishing, LLC
Not only is this my first blog post for this new blog, but it’s my first post for 2017: the year to top all years. Oh man, I’m so fricking excited. You guys have no idea. Seriously. NO idea. There are so many BIG things planned for this year, it’s going to blow your minds!
That’s not what this blog is about, though! HAHA! Sorry for getting you all syked up and then being like, “No!” But trust me, if you’re a writer, you’ll want to read this. I’m going to be discussing the three biggest issues I see as an Acquisitions Editor–words counts, query letters, and synopses.
Now, there’s a good amount of debate among the writer/publishing community as to the “correct” information for these three things. So, in this blog, I’ll be giving you my thoughts and ideas on each one, and an overview and guide to how I do things.
Let’s begin with word counts.
While the word count of a manuscript is highly flexible, there are general parameters for each category/genre. Many times overly low or overly high word counts can send up red flags to editors and agents.
Flash Fiction: 100-500 words
Short Stories: 1,000-8,000 words
Novellas: 20,000-40,000 words
Children’s Picture Books: 500-700 words
Children’s Chapter Books: 10,000-25,000 words
Middle Grade: 25,000-40,000 words
Young Adult: 50,000-80,000 words
New Adult: 60,000-85,000 words
Literary Fiction/Commercial Fiction/Women’s Fiction: 80,000-110,000 words
Crime Fiction: 90,000-100,000 words
Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense: 70,000-90,000 words
Romance (and all sub-genres): 40,000-100,000 words
Fantasy: 90,000-120,000 words
Paranormal: 75,000-95,000 words
Horror: 80,000-100,000 words
Science Fiction: 90,000-125,000 words
Historical: 100,000-120,000 words
Nonfiction: 70,000-110,000 words
Like I said, these word counts aren’t set in stone, but they’re pretty solid guidelines if you’re wondering where you should aim for your manuscript.
Now on to the literal bane of every writer’s existence: The Query Letter.
If you’ve ever even attempted to write a query letter before, you know after about thirty seconds you tend to feel like this:
And don’t worry, we all feel that way. Which is why I’m going to give you an awesome query letter writing guide that I use, not only for my own work but to help guide my authors to better writing.
First, there are a few general rules to remember about the query letter.
They should be between 250-300 words in length. Anything over that and you’re probably going to lose the attention of the agent/editor. We have a lot of submissions to read through every day, so query letters need to be short and amazing. These are the first thing we read in your submission, and generally give the push as to whether or not we are going to bother reading the rest of what you’ve submitted.
Also, to save your words, you don’t need to say that you’re looking for representation or publication. You’re querying agents and editors, so clearly we know you aren’t looking to order an extra large pepperoni pizza.
Lastly, don’t write your query letter as your character. First person query letters rarely turn out well. Most of the time, it’s a trainwreck. Query letters work best in third person. Literally, when it comes to query letters, it’s the only time I’ve ever heard anyone say, “Be the rule, not the exception.”
Now, on to the actual query letter writing guide!
I break a query letter into 8 parts. They’re pretty simple and will generally keep you within the word count that’s appropriate. So here we go!
Part 1: Opening
This is a simple line that says, “Dear (Insert agent/editor’s name here),”
Be professional in your opening. Despite the fact that you’re a writer, don’t get super cute or think that writing, “Sup ______,” is an appropriate way to address an agent or editor in your submission. It’s not.
Part 2: The Hook
This is a 1-2 sentence paragraph that grabs the attention of the agent/editor and makes them HAVE to keep reading your query letter. The hook should also introduce the main character.
Part 3: Main Character Information
This is the paragraph where you’re going to give the agent/editor some more information and (back)story on your main character. Make us interested in him/her.
Part 4: The Conflict
What is your main character going through? This is the paragraph where you set up what your main character is dealing with. Stick to the main plot though. Don’t waste word count trying to get into all the sub-plots your might have going on. Also, this is the place to mention the love interest or antagonist.
Part 5: The Climax & Choices
The stakes. This paragraph is all about what is riding on your main character’s decision. This is the paragraph that matters the most in a query. Your stakes have to be high enough that it makes the agent/editor’s jaw drop in that “oh shit” moment. And for the love of all things good in the world, do NOT end this with a question. “Will Harry be able to defeat the dark lord or only save himself?” <—–NO! Do NOT do this? As an editor, this wants to make me scream. Don’t ask me questions. I haven’t read your manuscript yet, so I need you to show me that the stakes are so high that I HAVE to read this book. Make my jaw drop!
Part 6: Story Information
In this paragraph you should give the title of the manuscript, category, genre, and word count, along with any comp titles. (Example (which is completely made up) would be: THIS MADE UP BOOK is a young adult urban fantasy complete at 75,000 words and will appeal to fans of Percy Jackson and Divergent.”) This helps show us that you understand where you book fits in the market, though honestly try not to use multi-billion dollar sellers as your comp titles. Personally, I don’t like seeing titles like Harry Potter, Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey, ect. in the comp titles. Or things that say fans of “Stephen King or J.K. Rowling”. Just my opinion though.
Part 7: The Closing
A simple line that says, “Thank you for your time and consideration,”
Part 8: Author Information
Name, telephone number, email address–at the minimum so that we can get in touch with you!
**For author’s who have previous writing credits, membership to writing communities, or important educational information. And extra paragraph can be added between Part 6 and Part 7 that states this. (Example: “I have a Bachelor’s Degree from Yale in Creative Writing, and am a member of Romance Writer’s of America.”) Anyway, you get the point.
So that’s the query letter!
Now for the real eye roller. The boring, black and white version of the beloved book you’ve written. THE SYNOPSIS!
Understand that for the most part, the synopsis is meant to be boring. This shows that you know how to actually tell a story from beginning to end, and though it may seem stupid, these are often requested and super important.
These I break down in the same fashion that your middle and high school English teacher used to make you break down the Hero’s Journey for the books you’ve read. Most books follow this path, so you can use this guide to fill in the blanks. Before we get started though, here are a few things to remember about writing a synopsis:
The first time you mention a character, their name should be in ALL CAPS. After the first time, you can write it normally. This helps the name stand out to us so that we remember it.
A synopsis should be 1-2 pages, but certainly no more than 3 pages. Most editors/agents as for a 1-3 page, so stay within that. Using this guide, you’ll probably end up at 1-2 pages.
Also, a few more things to keep in mind before writing your synopsis:
In my opinion, you don’t need to mention EVERY character in your book. Honestly, the protagonist(s), antagonist(s), and the side kick/love interest are the only ones that need to be mentioned by proper name. Everyone else can be mentioned by title (i.e. Mother, teacher, his friend, ect.)
You MUST tell the ending. Again, the entire point of this is to show you can actually tell a story from beginning to end, so if you don’t tell me the ending, I’m not sure you know how, which defeats the purpose.
Stick to the main plots at first, and then if you have extra words and space you can mention subplots. However, subplots are not as important, so stick to the absolute need-to-know information first.